A helicopter crash on May 19 claimed the lives of Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's eighth President, and his foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, leading to a series of consequential events.

Memorial services organized by the Iranian government globally in their honor, faced significant criticism from opponents of the Islamic Republic, sparking widespread discontent and controversy.

In Washington DC, a staff member of Iran's Interests Section in the US exacerbated tensions. In a video circulated on social media, Ramezan Soltan-Mohammadi was observed making a threatening gesture towards protesters, leading to an extended restraining order against him by a US court on June 17.

This incident, occurred on May 22 on the sideline of Raisi’s memorial service held by the Islamic Education Center (IEC) in Maryland, sparking renewed scrutiny into the ties between this sizeable mosque in Potomac and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Islamic Education Center (IEC) in Maryland

Despite concerted efforts over the years by the administrative staff and board members of IEC to keep a low profile and refrain from drawing undue attention to this prominent Shia center in Montgomery County, the facility has consistently faced accusations from critics who allege it has functioned as a haven for supporters of the Islamic Republic for numerous years.

These allegations against the IEC, which also serves as a mosque, seem firmly grounded in reality.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan initiated legal action to seize this center in 2009 for its connection to Alavi Foundation, a New York City-based organization accused of illegally providing money and services to Iran and spending millions of dollars to obtain and develop properties in violation of federal laws that ban trade with Iran, the New York Times reported.

IEC managers have endeavored to distance themselves from Alavi and have long asserted that the mosque's association with the foundation is purely that of tenant to landlord.

Furthermore, the management board has opted to enhance the organization's public image by revising its mission statement, asserting that it functions solely as a place of worship and religious center without any political affiliations. Nevertheless, there are compelling facts that contradict these assertions. Since its inception, the leaders and members of this organization have consistently shown fervent support for the Islamic Republic, demonstrating unwavering devotion and admiration for the regime in both rhetoric and actions.

Hosting Raisi’s funeral and several meticulously organized ceremonies directed by authorities in Tehran serve as undeniable examples that underscore the current bond.

Ahamad Bahraini Imam of IEC

Such is the depth of influence that throughout its operational history, the prayer leader of the center has consistently been appointed by Tehran. The current Imam, Ahmad Bahraini, who has served at the center for approximately two decades, previously held the position of Ali Khamenei's representative at Shahid Beheshti University before relocating to the United States.

His predecessor, Hojatolislam Mohammad-Reza Hejazi, sparked controversy when he was detained at Washington Dulles International Airport in 2005 while trying to depart for Iran with nearly $100,000 in cash, disregarding US tax rules.

The IEC's notable connections to Tehran include hosting prominent figures and clerics closely associated with Iran's power structure. Mohsen Qara'ati, a high-profile clergyman with ties to the regime; Mohammad Kazem Rashed Yazdi, a cleric with personal connections to Ali Khamenei; Mohsen Taj Langaroudi, a prominent loyalist cleric; and Mohsen Taheri, a well-known eulogist affiliated with the Khamenei’s office, have all been hosted by IEC and visited the US at the center's invitation.

According to Iranian International investigations, the IEC has been found to have substantial ties with the Iranian Interest Section (IIS). This section acts as the representative of the Iranian government in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Tehran. Our interviews with knowledgeable individuals suggest that certain current or former staff members of this center, as well as their spouses, have been employed by the ISS. Additionally, over the years, the center has frequently organized non-religious activities that align with the objectives of the Islamic Republic.

The authorities of the IEC have shown no willingness to respond to the claims stated.

According to its website, the Islamic Education Center in Washington was founded as a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Islam through cultural and religious activities. Despite its location in Potomac, Maryland, the decision to include "Washington" in its name reflects a historical dispute stemming from the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

The Center was established amid controversy following the expulsion of several of its current members from the prominent mosque of nation’s capital due to their occupation of the premises in 1981. According to the Washington Post, the dispute originated when "about a dozen demonstrators who support Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini occupied the mosque."

As reported by the newspaper, the board of the mosque, consisting of ambassadors to the United States from more than 40 Islamic nations, took legal action. Subsequently, a Superior Court judge issued an order for the demonstrators to evacuate the premises. When they declined to comply, some of the zealous supporters of Islamic Republic were charged with criminal contempt.

With sustenance from the Alavi Foundation, followers of Khomeini who were expelled from the Islamic Center of Washington instituted their own sanctuary by acquiring and renovating a sizable facility located in an affluent Maryland area.

The Islamic Center of Washington has displayed no interest in responding to Iran International’s questions regarding the four-decade-old conflict.

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